No one day creates such a drive to make changes as New Year’s day. Smoking will cease, sugar and chocolate ditched, gyms and various exercise plans developed as well as other types of changes decided on for this special day. Invariably for many, in spite of the sincerity of the intentions, come this time of the year, no change has occurred and the resolve to change has diminished with the passing of the first month of the new year.
Let’s get curious
Have you ever stopped and wondered, why? Probably, if you do, the reality is that you will make it all about you, in a way that is not very kind. You may tell yourself, it’s because you have no will power, you never succeed at anything, you never stick to anything and other unkind reasons you make up for not having kept to your resolution. You may even have attempted the resolution more than once, and hope that this time it will be different… only to find you end up in exactly the same place all over again.
Now, let’s imagine for a minute that all the reasons you may have made up, actually have nothing to do with you not achieving your goals, yet.
Did you know that having a resolution is only step one? What is needed next is a plan, one that is rich in detail, is flexible and underpinned with some magic ingredients.
You do already know how to plan
I know that you know how to plan, you are doing it all day. You plan what you are wearing, what to eat, how to travel to where you are going. And yet, often when we think about “goals or resolutions” it can all go a little awry
Changing the programme with kindness
What if right now, you became curious about doing it in a slightly different way. Some things need to be the same, for instance, our brain, operates in many ways like a smart phone or computer. It can only take actions it has a programme for, so we do need a plan, a direction in which to travel.
Switching goals for intentions
However, what if instead of referring to goals, you experiment with having daily intentions instead. I have found that awaking with the intention of practicing certain behaviours or planning to take certain actions, have made it easier for clients to respond with self-kindness instead of criticism, if perchance, the day didn’t go as planned.
The magic of self-compassion
The magic in offering ourselves kindness instead of criticism when we don’t do as intended is manifold and contrary to what you may be thinking, is more likely to result in you ultimately achieving what you had intended. Responding with criticism tends to activate our stress response as well as old stories of how we are not good enough which can then lead to increased feelings of shame and isolation, unlikely to ask for help or support, which in turn keeps our stress response activated…and the cycle continues, often resulting in us travelling a great distance from what our intention was. When we respond with kindness & compassion, we are able to respond as if to a friend, and lean into our possible frustrations with understanding, being able to reflect on our planned intentions with a view to exploring what we may need to do differently and continue on our journey to achieving what we intended.
Your plan may look something like this:
- Begin with the end in mind, what do you want and why? Ultimately for the change you desire to be authentic and sustainable, it needs to be something that is in alignment with what you want, and not someone else’s, or society’s idea of who and what you “should” be achieving or doing. So, if for instance you want to nourish yourself with kindness, why do you? what will be different because you are now nourishing yourself differently? Begin to see yourself already having made the changes. What are doing and how do you feel? The more time you spend stepping in to the change you want, as if you have already made it, the more likely you are to achieve it.
- What is really important to you in your life, what do you value the most? When you write down the 10 most valuable things in your life, do your intentions honour them. If for instance, you value kindness as a core value, and you know you spend a lot of time being self-critical, what do you need to do differently so you are living the value. For instance if you have been intending to become slimmer and have been dieting for years, with each cycle being more self-critical, how does this fit with the value of kindness.
- What steps do you need to take, when and what is the time scale? There needs to be flexibility and patience. If you haven’t achieved what you want by the date you said, it is not a reason to give up, it may be a reason to take time to reflect on what you may need to think, feel, be or do differently… and to know that the dates we set are “made up and make believe” and its ok if somethings take a little longer… after all, you don’t get frustrated when things happen ahead of the time you set, do you
- What support will you need? What resources? Think about this in terms of people, time, skills, knowledge, and money etc. Mostly we achieve more when we create a team around us; this can be family and friends as well as working with a Coach or other specialists who can offer you support and skills. Developing a mindfulness practice, keeping a gratitude journal as well as practicing self-compassion, as well as other interventions are invaluable in enabling us to be present, savour and respond with kindness, curiosity and compassion to our experience.
- Do you believe you are worthy of what you want to achieve? Do you have a little voice in your head doubting you are? If you notice this, then begin to talk to yourself as if supporting your best friend…be kind and offer yourself compassion. Explore with kindness the old ideas or stories you have lived your life by that may be holding you back. Be grateful to them, as their intention would have been to protect you in some way… and begin to create new ideas about yourself, that enable you to see that you are worthy and that your worth is not attached to you doing, being or showing up in specific way.
- How are you going to manage the challenges you may face along the way? learning to offer yourself kindness and compassion is key. One of the most precious of gifts to offer yourself every day, is to have a daily intention of knowing that your worth isn’t not attached to an outcome. One way of doing this, is to say to yourself in a soothing tone… “and I am worthy of love and belonging’’ especially after you may have made a mistake or acted in a way you didn’t intend to. This acts as a sort of magic, because it interrupts the possibility of activating your stress response, which as discussed earlier, is likely to take you off of your intentional path.
- You probably don’t live in a bubble on your own and so any changes you make, will most likely have some sort of impact on people in your life. Include them in your plan, explain what you are doing and how they can support you.
- How are you measuring your success? When are you celebrating? Most people wait until the “end” to celebrate…for about 5 mins and then move on. What would it be like for you to celebrate each step achieved and reflect and learn from every day’s experience? Setting an intention to do this daily will result in you being happier, wiser and more resilient.
Every day of your precious life, is a new beginning, an opportunity to reflect on the days past. With a sense of wonderment and curiosity, create the intentions that ensure you are living your kindest life.
Until next time,
About the author: Helen Golstein